women in business
Gone are the days when women were not supposed to run businesses. Fortunately, social media has made that possible in the current age and many women are taking the plunge and entering the world of entrepreneurship. This year sees celebration of International Women’s Day by lifting up women and the concept of gender equality. With the theme, #EachforEqual, it advocates that an equal world is an enabled world. This is especially true in the world of business, where women face a number of stereotypes and biases that may hamper their progress. As we celebrate women’s achievements each year, we also have a duty to recognise the hurdles they face, so that we can build the pathway to a more gender-balanced world.
Keeping this in mind, Future of Business - collaboration between Facebook, the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been introduced in order to survey the millions of small businesses on Facebook around the world bi-annually. We share country-level data from this survey openly, providing policymakers, research institutions, and non-profits with an up-to-date, global view of online small businesses’ challenges and expectations. This data was gathered in over 100 countries in late 2019 and focuses on issues which women in business face, including the reasons for starting their business, their access to credit, the size of their business, and whether they find social media helpful for their ventures.
In Pakistan the survey found that 12 per cent of business leaders surveyed through Facebook were women with 3 per cent saying that they started their own business due to the availability of flexible working conditions. 23 per cent said it was to pursue a passion or dream, and 9 per cent wanted to be their own boss. These women also cite the important role that social media plays to their business, with 91 per cent checking their Facebook Page weekly and 58 per cent saying that social media is helpful to their trade.
However, women in business still face growth and financing challenges. Despite the fact that 26 per cent have at least two years’ experience in their respective fields, our survey shows 70 per cent of women leading businesses in Pakistan are leading firms with fewer than 10 employees, and that they operate smaller businesses than their male counterparts. Only 4 per cent report of having access to a loan or a line of credit.
At Facebook, we are committed to enabling an equal world by supporting women through initiatives that help address needs around coaching, mentorship, connectivity and community, which are all integral factors in helping women succeed at business. We have programmes such as #SheMeansBusiness, which enables women with opportunities to connect with each other and learn. Across the region, we have trained more than 320,000 small medium businesses across 197 locations - 50 per cent of whom are women entrepreneurs. In Pakistan specifically, the programme was launched in August 2019, and its partners include Universal Service Fund in Islamabad and the Punjab IT Board and the Women’s Chamber of Commerce in Lahore.
This year, we are also launching #TechbyHer, an initiative to provide more inclusive programming and support for women in tech across Asia Pacific. We are focused on supporting women by providing access to education and innovation, and help build a supportive community for them to interact and scale their businesses. Our programmes include training and mentorship, opportunities to gain new skills, learn ways to build better products with our emerging technologies (Messenger, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality), and monetise on our platforms. We are also celebrating the successes and achievements of women innovators who are raising the bar all around the world.
Across our platforms, we have seen the positive impact that women have been able to create in their communities when they have a voice - from building businesses, to starting social movements, to empowering each other. We look forward to celebrating their success for years to come and contribute towards a more equal world.
– The writer is the Director for Emerging Markets, APAC at Facebook